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Final practice - Red Bull versus McLaren at Buddh 29 Oct 2011

Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing RB7.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 17, Indian Grand Prix, Buddh International Circuit, Greater Noida, New Delhi, India, Practice Day, Friday, 28 October 2011 Alguersuari and Karthikeyan move out as the light turns green on final practice Hamilton comes round to complete a lap Senna slides backwards out towards the wall Vettel flings his car around the track on his way to taking P1 in Practice Three

Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel did his best to lower Ferrari and McLaren’s aspirations for the 2011 Formula 1 Airtel Grand Prix of India on Saturday morning, even though he left it literally until the chequered flag fell in practice to set the fastest time by more than three-tenths of a second.

After everyone had a run on Pirelli’s hard tyres just to check out their performance level for the race, the fast runs began on the softer rubber in the final 15 minutes. As the end of the hour approached, Jenson Button had the quickest time for McLaren with 1m 25.191s ahead of Red Bull’s Mark Webber, who had just split the two silver cars.

The Australian’s 1m 25.203s didn’t unseat Button, but it pushed Lewis Hamilton down a place after the Englishman had recorded 1m 25.288s. But then Vettel got in another great lap, despite having to flash past one of the Saubers at a critical point on the circuit, and there was the weekend’s first sub-1m 25s lap: a demoralising 1m 24.824s which put him 0.367s clear.

Behind the top four, Ferrari lost a little pace as Fernando Alonso was fifth on 1m 25.784s and Felipe Massa sixth on 1m 26.058s.

Then there was another gap as Paul di Resta continued his impressive season with 1m 26.785s to take seventh for Force India, ahead of Nico Rosberg’s Mercedes on 1m 26.873s and Adrian Sutil on 1m 26.958s in the second Force India.

Sebastien Buemi continued to look like a top 10 contender for qualifying, with 1m 27.146s in his Toro Rosso, ahead of Michael Schumacher on 1m 27.217s in the other Mercedes, Bruno Senna on 1m 27.235s for Renault despite a few off-track excursions, Kamui Kobayashi on 1m 27.262s in the lead Sauber, Vitaly Petrov on 1m 27.280s in the second Renault, Jaime Alguersuari on 1m 27.387s in the other Toro Rosso, Sergio Perez on 1m 27.749s in the second Sauber, and the Williamses of Pastor Maldonado and Rubens Barrichello on 1m 27.793s and 1m 27.875s respectively.

Jarno Trulli continued to rule the Lotus roost with 1m 29.355s to Heikki Kovalainen’s 1m 29.750s, and Timo Glock was similarly in charge at Virgin with 1m 30.683s for 21st, but local hero Narain Karthikeyan continued his impressive weekend by shadowing him with 1m 30.900s for HRT. Their respective team mates had less happy sessions; Jerome D’Ambrosio couldn’t get below 1m 32.851s in his Virgin, while Daniel Ricciardo had a troubled time with gearbox trouble for HRT en route to 1m 33.246s.

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